Written by Nenetzin Rodgriguez, CSU STEM VISTA 2015-16 Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering
In my day planner, I write a different quote every week for myself to look at. I started writing quotes to promote positivity for my week. My favorite quote is from the photorealist Chuck Close: “Amateurs look for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Last year, as a City Year member in Providence, RI, my students inspired me to pursue a career in education. This year, I thought I had to find inspiration through the college students I work with at Cal Poly Pomona. But I didn’t get inspiration from them.
I coordinate and collaborate on STEM events and activities with undergraduate engineering students to add support to K-12 STEM instruction and sustain outreach programs. As the community liaison, I’ve collected and interpreted input from parents, administrators, and teachers to develop adequate support for K-12 students to gain knowledge and resources from our engineering students and faculty.
I was inspired by one of our outreach events called Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering Introduce a Girl to Engineering. It has been my favorite event this year because I observed female college students become role models for female middle school students. K-12 students look up to young adults for guidance and acceptance. It easier for them to open up to a college student versus a teacher because it was easier for them to place themselves in the shoes of another student.
I saw the opportunity for what I worked on last year as an AmeriCorps City Year tutor/mentor to be incorporated into CPP CoE outreach programs. Now, I’m developing a learning community program for undergraduate female engineering students that focuses on K-12 female STEM mentorship. This will provide academic guidance and instructional components such as tutoring. This position has shown me the benefit that early exposure to STEM learning can have on K-12 students. It unlocks their potential and shows them many new and exciting opportunities.
At the start of an AmeriCorps year, you feel the pressure to create something that is different and that will work seamlessly at your host site. But sometimes you will have to push yourself to find what the project needs. Organizing events that promoted engineering to middle and high school girls has helped me identify what I needed to accomplish this year. But I had to also have confidence and believe that the work I proposed would be meaningful in a dynamic environment, where projects are constantly evolving.
Being a CSU STEM VISTA has furthered my interest working with education policies in the STEM field. I have made a lot of sacrifices for the last two years being in AmeriCorps with living on a stipend and starting my life again California. But I choose to work within the public sector because I want to continue to allocate educational resources to underserved and underrepresented communities to ensure an outcome of social and financial benefit. I believe public service can develop appropriate problem solving techniques in marginalized communities. I want to improve the quality of K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning by implementing efficient programs and services in Title 1 schools and low-income neighborhoods. I want to educate the general public and government on how to improve policy in K-12 STEM education.
Title 1 schools are in need for equitable distribution of STEM learning for underrepresented minority students. Examining the complexities of housing space, poverty, social factors (race, gender, class), income, and access to healthcare for minority students will help educators and the public understand the success rates in STEM within primary and secondary schools and retention in college.
I envision my future as a program director at a nonprofit organization. My experiences working with urban communities and tutoring at-risk students have directed myself to education. Creating equity in the classroom and providing programs suitable for students’ academic needs will promote self-confidence, individuality, perseverance, and inspiration.
I believe students should be given the opportunity to challenge themselves in different academic subjects. I’m dedicated to have students support each other and be active participants in their classrooms and neighborhoods. Engaging and stimulating lessons should be accessible for every child. But in order for my future unravel to what I intend it to be, I have to “just get up and go to work” where the best of my abilities will count.